Among music superstars, Joni Mitchell is among the few whose vaults have remained largely unmined for previously unheard vintage material. That changes in a big way with the Oct. 30 release of “Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967),” a boxed set that will include six hours of material from the years preceding her debut album in 1968.
As the title would indicate, further volumes are being promised by Rhino to come out over the next few years, with Mitchell very much at the helm in all the projects.
“Vol. 1” will arrive as a five-CD set as well as a digital collection. Included in the set are 29 original Mitchell compositions that have never before seen the light of day in any vocal form. The liner notes will feature fresh conversations between the artist and her friend Cameron Crowem as will the volumes to come.
It’s being heralded today by the immediate release of a Canadian radio performance of the perennial “House of the Rising Sun” from 1963, said to represent the earliest recording of her on record. (Listen below.)
As part of the announcement, Mitchell had an amusing statement to make about how she’s come to terms with the label she was slapped with — and rebelled against — in these early years and beyond. “The early stuff, I shouldn’t be such a snob against it,” she said. “A lot of these songs, I just lost them. They fell away. They only exist in these recordings. For so long I rebelled against the term: ‘I was never a folk singer.’ I would get pissed off if they put that label on me. I didn’t think it was a good description of what I was. And then I listened and… it was beautiful. It made me forgive my beginnings. And I had this realization… I was a folk singer!”
Although the full collection isn’t being released in its entirety on vinyl, the live sets that open and close the boxed set are being cherrypicked for individual 180g LP release. One is the single-disc “Early Joni — 1963,” a radio performance for CFQC AM in Saskatoon, with an LP jacket that sports a self-portrait said to be her first new, publicly released artwork in years. The other vinyl stand-alone is a three-record set, “Live at Canterbury House — 1967.” Each of those two releases will be available in limited-edition white or clear vinyl pressings of 1,500 each; the overall vinyl total for “Canterbury House” is limited to 10,000.
Beyond the many previously unknown tracks, fans will get demo versions of songs that showed up on Mitchell’s first four studio albums, including “Michael From Mountains,” “I Had A King,“ “Chelsea Morning,” “Both Sides Now,” “The Circle Game” and “Little Green.” It will also include her cover of Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain,” which she says inspired “Circle Game.”
Mitchell’s camp is also engaging with social media after leaving her presence to unofficial fan accounts for years. Beyond launching an official website (www.jonimitchell.com), Mitchell will finally be represented on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a YouTube channel for news, historical content and merch.
Since a hospitalization in 2015 that alarmed fans, Mitchell has not sung in public or released new recordings. But her recovery has been evidenced by how she has maintained a quieter public profile attending events where she warmly greets well wishers — from her own 70th birthday party at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 2018 to the opening of Crowe’s “Almost Famous” musical in San Diego last year — and friends report that, behind the scenes, she remains a bon vivant and vivacious party host.
The full track list: